An aortic aneurysm is a condition in which a bulge exists in the wall of the aorta – the largest and main artery (the blood vessel) of our body that carries oxygen rich blood from the heart to various sections of our body. The bulge in the aorta results from the overstretching and weakness of the wall of the vessel.
Aortic aneurysms can burst and cause massive internal hemorrhage when it enlarges rapidly. Internal bleeding, if left untreated, can lead to death. Aortic aneurysms may develop in any section of the aorta, but most often it occurs in the abdominal section.
Treatment Options for Aortic Aneurysm
An aortic aneurysm is often so small in size that it is difficult to detect. The only way to detect aortic aneurysm is medical diagnosis. Once you are diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, your doctor will evaluate the condition and decide whether immediate surgery is required and whether your health condition is suitable for withstanding a surgery or if the surgery can be avoided for the time being.
Nature of treatment also depends on the condition of the heart valve and aorta, their shape and flexibility. The treatment is aimed at either managing the risk factors that could result in rupture or surgical treatment to repair the aneurysm. Once ruptured, there is no other option other then surgery.
Non-Surgical Medical Treatment
Surgery is generally avoided when the aortic aneurysm is very small in size and the symptoms are comparatively stable. Smaller aneurysms that are less than 5.5 cm in diameter and have less risk of rupturing are treated with medicines. Periodic CT and MRI scan are recommended for patients whose aortic aneurysm is small and asymptomatic.
Doctor will prescribe beta-blockers if the patient has high blood pressure to reduce the strain on already weakened aorta. Cholesterol lowering medications may also be prescribed to treat high cholesterol. Sometimes patient is prescribed medicines that can restrict the growth of aortic aneurysm and minimize the risk of rupture.
Your doctor will suggest some lifestyle changes like switching to a heart-healthy diet, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake. Regular exercising for at least 30 minutes a day is also very important.
Surgery is recommended when aortic aneurysms are enlarging rapidly and there is risk of rupture. In men, surgery is usually recommended when the aortic aneurysms are larger than 5.5 cm in diameter. On the other hand, surgery may be done for even smaller aneurysms in women. Growth rate is also taken into consideration. If aortic aneurysm enlarges 5 cm within 6 months, then also surgery is recommended.
Surgical Methods Used for Aortic Aneurysm
Open Surgical Repair
In this method, a large cut is made where aneurysm exists. The damaged area is then separated surgically from the aorta. A synthetic tube known as aortic graft is then placed in its place by sewing. The procedure is performed using general anesthesia and takes approximately 3 to 4 hours.
Endovascular aneurysm repair is a less invasive alternative to open surgical repair. This procedure is performed using a special device made of metal mesh called endovascular stent graft. Without surgically opening the aorta, the stent graft is placed in the affected portion of aorta for separating the aneurysm from the blood flow.
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